Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams showed they are a slide above anyone on the red clay this year with the stumble of No. 1 Novak Djokovic and the fall off of — well, everyone on the WTA tour.
In Rome this weekend Nadal man-slapped former world No. 1 Roger Federer 6-1, 6-3, and Serena Williams likewise [explisive]-slapped Victoria Azarenka by the same score. It was a definitive defining of the current claycourt landscape.
“If you told me four or five months ago that after eight tournaments I would have won six titles from eight finals, I would say you are crazy,” said Nadal, who returning to competition from a rumored career-ending knee injury earlier this year.
Nadal dialed in the Fed-killer tactic during the Rome final — high bouncers to the Swiss’ backhand.
“It didn’t go how I hoped and I was missing too many easy forehands and crucial points,” Federer said. “He does an incredible job returning from the back of the court and it is hard because he covers the court so well.”
Nadal has now won 41 claycourt titles during his career.
Serena equally built on her resume, pounding Azarenka with twice as many winners as unforced errors in a laugher.
“The first three games took about 20 minutes,” said Serena, pumping up the “difficulty” of the match. “It wasn’t easy, nothing is ever easy. I think the difference today was I took the opportunities when I had them and came up with some really good shots.”
All in all, it was excellent, an excellency she hopes to continue.
“Last year I was feeling excellent on clay but didn’t do that great at Roland Garros,” Serena said. “This year I’m cautious and I want to work hard and stay focused and win every point I play, and not slack at all.”
Serena improved to 12-2 vs. Azarenka. Is Azarenka her biggest threat at Roland Garros?
“Whoever I’m playing is my opponent, and also the lady in the mirror is the ultimate opponent for me,” said Serena, who is 33-1 on clay since the start of last year’s claycourt season.
Azarenka said Serena was the better player — blah blah blah.
“After the trophy ceremony we were just talking about the match and wishing each other luck for the French Open, and that we’ll see each other in Paris, and hopefully see each other in another final,” Azarenka said.
So what have you got now?
Rafa was left for dead with the knee injury, but now is the French Open favorite. Djokovic is No. 1 ranked but is — the No. 2 favorite? Roger Federer is the aging outside favorite with a bad faux mohawk. Serena Williams’ only French Open hurdle is avoiding injury. Who are your Roland Garros favorites and contenders?
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